Wednesday 21 February 2018

Ashley Madison subscriber numbers surge despite hack attack

Ashley Madison founder Noel Biderman
Ashley Madison founder Noel Biderman

Andrew Trotman

Ashley Madison, the adultery webiste, has seen its popularity soar in recent months, despite a hack that exposed the personal details of millions of its customers.

More than 43.4m people have signed up to the company, according to its website, up from around 37m - including 1.2m Britons - at the time of the cyber attack in August.

Over 100,000 of these are Irish.

The personal details from Ashley Madison - whose tagline is “Life is short. Have an affair” - included addresses, ages, phone numbers, credit card details and even sexual fantasies.

The details were published online by hackers calling themselves The Impact Team, who stole the data and threatened to make it public unless Ashley Madison was taken down. They said they had acted because they claimed the company had failed to delete the details of users who had paid to have their profiles erased.

The hackers' online message with the leak

Ashley Madison’s parent company, Avid Life Media, subsequently shelved plans to float on the London Stock Exchange, whilea class action lawsuit has already been launched in the US, seeking more than £3m in damages.

There have also been claims that the vast majority of Ashley Madison subscribers are men, and many of the female profiles on the site were created by staff.

In 2013 an employee at Ashley Madison’s headquarters in Toronto claimed that after being hired to help launch a Portuguese language version of the site she was ordered to create 1,000 fake female profiles to reel in men who wanted to have affairs.

Ashley Madison has denied creating fake female accounts.

Ashley Madison states on its website that it cannot “guarantee the authenticity" of any profile. It relies wholly on men for its profits; women can join for free, but men pay a minimum of £39 to be able to contact other members, though there is no guarantee that they will get a response from people they message.

Avid Life Media did not return calls for comment on the surge in subscribers.

In its last public statement, on August 31, Avid Life Media said "reports predicting the imminent demise of Ashley Madison are greatly exaggerated".

"Despite having our business and customers attacked, we are growing. This past week alone, hundreds of thousands of new users signed up for the Ashley Madison platform – including 87,596 women.

"In the first half of this year the ratio of male members who paid to communicate with women on our service versus the number of female members who actively used their account (female members are not required to pay to communicate with men on Ashley Madison) was 1.2 to 1."

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